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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

USA vs. the WTO Ruling

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favor of the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, in their claim that the USA's ban on online gaming (UIGEA) is illegal.

So the little underdogs (Antigua and Barbuda) have won the battle but are still heavily engaged in the war. At stake is a billion(s) dollar a year online gaming industry. This amount of money is worth fighting over in any body's book, especially for Antigua and Barbuda, for which online gaming is a vital industry. The 1990's brought devastating hurricanes to these islands, causing a tourism plunge and wrecking havoc on the economy. It was then that the government knew they needed to find a way to achieve economic stability, one that would not depend on the fragile tourism industry. That break from dependency on tourism had been found with the advent of online gaming.

Until the UIGEA that is. The case is reminiscent of Ecuador's banana imports victory over the EU, proving that a favorable WTO ruling can mean monumental results for even the smallest of countries.

On October 5th 2007, Antigua and Barbuda's finance minister L. Errol Cort defended his nations plan to impose trade sanctions against the USA, sanctions which could amount to upwards of 3.4 billion dollars. Cort is hoping the USA will buckle under and comply with the WTO ruling, which means allowing online gaming. This is doubtful, so far the USA has refused to heed the WTO's ruling and has taken the "appeal" road, which could drag on forever. Even though the WTO upheld the USA's right to ban offshore gambling, they ruled it was illegal for the USA to target offshore casinos and online gambling, without also banning it's own off-track dog and horse race betting.

After the WTO ruling, The USA tried to cover its tracks and declared it would explicitly remove Internet gambling from its WTO treaty obligations. This ploy by the USA has not stopped the 27-nation European Union, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Japan and Macau from joining Antigua, by filing their own separate compensation claims against the USA.

Also because of the USA's non-compliance, a trade war may now be on the horizon between the US and the EU over the 113.5 billion USD in estimated trade concessions.

In Brussels on October 10th a seminar was held covering the implications for the WTO, and the economic impact for the EU because of the USA's refusal to allow EU gaming companies to operate freely. The USA is in the cross hairs, as countries around the globe are watching this issue closely.

The easy way for the USA to comply with the WTO would be to rework the offshore and online betting ban (UIGEA). The USA needs to either ban ALL online gambling, including its own, or allow Americans to gamble online, at any and all gambling sites, including those based outside the USA.

It's not over till it's over, and this battle looks like it may not be over for a very long time. Meanwhile Americans can still play online, just click on one of the poker room banners here on PokerWorks and sign up, show you oppose the UIGEA!

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